Jo-Ellen Darcy, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, visited the Los Angeles District the week of Oct. 23, speaking to an international dredging conference, visiting or viewing several Los Angeles District civil works projects and meeting with local sponsors.
Speaking to the Dredging 2012 international conference here, Darcy told attendees about the Corps’ responsibility to the nation in developing and restoring water resources and about its effort to transform programs to meet the needs of the 21st Century.
“The Corps has a direct federal investment in commercial navigation, flood risk management, environmental restoration, hydro-elect power generation, recreation, and industrial and municipal water supply,” Darcy said to conference attendees. She told them a shared government and private effort to continue to meet those requirements is essential to our nation’s success.
“Our nation must balance engineering, the economy and the environment,” she said. “That balance includes the beneficial reuse of the nearly 300 million cubic yards of material dredged annually by government and private agencies.”
Coincidentally, the Los Angeles District had completed in early October a navigational dredging project at the Marina del Rey entrance channel that beneficially re-used nearly 800,000 cubic yards of material for shoreline protection and port redevelopment.
Darcy emphasized the importance of the nation’s ports and of the Corps’ significant contribution to maintaining its maritime industry.
“More than 95 percent of containerized cargo arrives by ship,” Darcy said, “and about 97 percent of our nation’s imports and exports, about $1.7 trillion, goes through Corps projects.”
Following her comments to the conference, Darcy, along with the Corps’ Commanding General for Civil and Emergency Operations Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh and South Pacific Division Commander Brig. Gen. Michael Wehr, flew by helicopter to Prado Dam. En route, she received briefings on several civil works projects from David Van Dorpe, the Los Angeles District deputy district engineer for programs and project management, and Dr. Josephine Axt, the District’s chief of planning division.
At Prado Dam, Darcy met with representatives from the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, the Bureau of Reclamation and public works departments, flood control districts and water conservation agencies from San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties, all local sponsors or partners on the Santa Ana River Mainstem Project.
The agency representatives discussed their interest about funding, land acquisition and the completion of different project elements along the river and within its watershed, and about timetables for studies to investigate additional authorizations for water conservation.
Just as important, though, was the consensus among the sponsors that the partnerships developed over several decades were critical in creating a unified vision for the watershed.
“The group engaged in a lively discussion of the unique attributes and compelling collaboration that sets the Santa Ana River Watershed apart from other watersheds in the nation,” Axt said. “The innovative combination of two existing models to incorporate both watershed goals and value to the nation, as well as the reproducibility of the Santa Ana River Watershed Based pilot to other watersheds, underscored the message that the Santa Ana River Watershed meets every criteria for successfully implementing a watershed-based budgeting pilot within USACE.”
On the flight back to San Diego, Darcy viewed several more civil works projects, discussing environmental restoration and water conservation measures along several waterways before returning to the coast. Axt and Van Dorpe briefed the secretary on navigational maintenance dredging projects at Newport Beach, Dana Point, Oceanside and San Diego, on beach protection and restoration projects at San Clemente, Solana Beach and Encinitas and on flood risk reduction and environmental efforts along Murrieta Creek and San Luis Rey River.
Darcy completed her visit to the Los Angeles District the following day along the Mexican border speaking with representatives from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the International Boundary and Water Commission, the San Diego Regional Water Control Board, the California Department of Fish and Game and the city of San Diego.
Discussions covered multi-national watershed issues, primarily the Tijuana River and other waterways that feed into the Tijuana River Valley Watershed, often bringing debris and other contaminants into the border estuary.
Darcy met with Commissioner Ed Drusina of the IBWC and with stakeholders and members of the Tijuana River Valley Recovery Team to discuss the continuing need for collaborative partnerships in finding sustainable solutions to bi-national issues.
“Not only is it amazing the work being done here, but also the vision the district has for what it is we can continue to contribute,” Darcy said. “The plans they have been putting forward, not only for what I saw yesterday at Prado Dam, but also here in the Tijuana watershed, are a testament to the vision and professionalism I see with everyone in the Corps, and in the Los Angeles District in particular.”